Events Highlight Comics as an Art Form
- By Kevin Coburn
A who’s-who lineup of comic artists and graphic novelists will converge on Burlington later this month for the “Pulp Culture Comic Arts Festival and Symposium” sponsored by the University of Vermont and the Vermont Folklife Center.
Scheduled for October 19-21, the event features talks by artists Alison Bechdel, Joe Sacco and Art Spiegelman; discussion panels and workshops; exhibits by over 30 cartoonists from New England and Quebec; and a festival of images and ideas for enthusiasts of the art form.
Works like Speigelman’s Maus, serialized from 1980 to 1991, demonstrated that comic art could take on serious adult subjects, contradicting the assumption that comics were only relevant for adolescent lovers of fantasy, sci-fi and superheroes.
The mid-eighties kicked off the graphic novel movement, which now report on topics like genocide, particle physics and political theory, and provide a robust medium for biography and fiction.
Isaac Cates, a lecturer who teaches classes in the comic arts at UVM, serves as an advisor for the festival. He came to appreciate comic art from the perspective of poetry.
“Poets must be attentive to every word, every detail,” he says. “In the same way, every detail in every panel of a graphic novel is purposeful—nothing appears accidentally.”
Cates will moderate a forum on comic art as a medium for autobiography.
“I tell my students that comic authors are like filmmakers who happen to be the writer, producer, director, costume designer, set designer, editor and cinematographer.”
Highlights of “Pulp Culture Comic Arts Festival and Symposium” include:
An Evening with Art Spiegelman, October 19, 2017, 7-9 p.m. at the UVM Recital Hall. In an onstage interview and presentation, the legendary Spiegelman will discuss his extensive body of work, including his award winning graphic novel Maus, and share his perspectives on the history of comics and use of comics in non-fiction storytelling. The event will conclude with an audience question and answer session.
A Conversation with Joe Sacco, October 20, 2017, 3-5 p.m. at the Carpenter Auditorium, Larner College of Medicine at UVM. The Dan and Carole Burack President’s Distinguished Lecture Series at UVM presents this conversation with renowned comics journalist, Joe Sacco. Sacco will explore journalism, cartooning, subjectivity and objectivity in representation, reflexivity, and the role of the self in his work, as well as the intersections of journalism, ethnography and history.
Drawing from the Past: A Nonfiction Comics Workshop. Join New Hampshire teaching artist Mark Bennett for this hands-on non-fiction comics lab. Participants will look at basic techniques of cartooning and comics creation, and draw original comics based on primary source texts. No experience required–space is limited. Contact Andy Kolovos (firstname.lastname@example.org) for more information. 10-2 p.m. October 20 at the UVM Special Collections.
A Conversation with Alison Bechdel, October 21, 2017, 6-8 p.m. at the Fleming Auditorium (Room 101) at UVM’s Fleming Museum. The capstone event of “Pulp Culture Comic Arts Festival and Symposium” features a live interview with MacArthur Fellow and UVM professor of English Alison Bechdel. Her comic strip “Dykes to Watch Out For” became a countercultural institution among lesbians and discerning non-lesbians all over the planet. And her more recent, darkly humorous graphic memoirs about her family have forged an unlikely intimacy with an even wider range of readers.
Panel Discussions. On October 21, symposium features a series of five panels throughout the day that explore different aspects of non-fiction cartooning. Drawing together cartoonists, writers and academics, the hour-long panels will foster a rich dialog between panelists and audience. Panels will be held in the Fleming Auditorium (Room 101) in the Fleming Museum.
Exhibition. Visit the Marble Court of the Fleming Museum on October 21 from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. and meet cartoonists from Vermont, New England, New York and Montreal.
Green Mountain Pulp: Comics in Vermont. This exhibit in partnership with the Vermont Folklife Center, the Fleming Museum and University of Vermont Libraries is on display on the main floor of UVM’s Bailey/Howe Library October 2-March 5, 2018. “Green Mountain Pulp” highlights the work of symposium presenters Alison Bechdel, Joe Sacco and Art Spiegelman, and presents a wide range of materials on comics in and about Vermont, including original works by Bechdel, Stephen R. Bissette, James Kochalka and Rick Veitch.
All events are free and open to the public. For more details visit
The “Pulp Culture Comic Arts Festival and Symposium” is presented by the University of Vermont and the Vermont Folklife Center. UVM co-sponsors include The Fleming Museum, Carolyn and Leonard Miller Center for Holocaust Studies, Department of German and Russian, Jewish Studies Program, Dan and Carole Burack Distinguished Lecture Series, University of Vermont Humanities Center, Department of Art and Art History, Vermont Humanities Council, Larner College of Medicine, Vermont Arts Council, Center for Cartoon Studies, The Center for Research on Vermont, UVM Departments of Anthropology, English, Geography, History, Romance Languages & Linguistics, Global & Regional Studies, Gender, Sexuality, & Women's Studies Program, and the Honors College. Jonah Steinberg (associate professor of anthropology) is the principal organizer and host of the event.